The play’s story follows directly on from Henry IV, Part 3. It influenced Christopher Marlowe’s play, Edward the Second, which was written no later than 1592. Richard III probably dates from around 1591–1592.
The play was first printed as a quarto in 1597, using a manuscript that was possibly based on the collective memory of the Chamberlain’s Men. Further quartos in 1598, 1602 and 1605, were each typeset from the preceding one. A fifth quarto in 1612 was typeset from the fourth and third quartos, and a sixth in 1622 was typeset from the fifth. The First Folio version is longer and was probably prepared from a combination of the third and sixth quartos, and Shakespeare’s manuscripts.
The most replenished sweet work of nature
That from the prime creation e’er she framed.’
Richard III, IV iii
Brief synopsis of the play
This play continues the story from Henry VI, Part 3, and completes the series of plays covering the Wars of the Roses: it centres on the joyfully villainous Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who manoeuvres his way to the throne and strives to keep it. In his path are his elder brothers King Edward IV and George, Duke of Clarence, but also his two infant nephews. Richard’s greatest challenge comes from Henry, Earl of Richmond, when his conscience catches up with him.